[Advaita-l] Conference on that Date of Adi Sankaracharya in October, 2002

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Mon Dec 14 13:32:54 CST 2009


Dear Sri Bhattacharjya,

> 1)
> Everybody seems to agree that Adi Sankaracharya was born on the 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. The problem automatically arises in ascertaining who was this Vikramaitya. One paper presented in the conference refers to a minor rock inscription of Ashoka, where Vikramaitya has been mentioned, proving thereby that there was one , who lived before 4th century BCE. Why then the scholars have to lean towards the Chalukyan Vikramaitya?


Surely, this minor Asokan rock-inscription vikramAditya has to be different from the famous vikramAditya from whom the vikrama samvat originates?


Not everybody agrees to the 14th year of Vikramaditya date. This detail is found originally only in Sringeri records and a Tamil text called Kongu-desa Rajakkal, an account of the kings who ruled the Coimbatore region. Assigning the vikramAditya of this statement to the vikrama era results in a date in the 1st century BCE, not 509 BCE. This then caused scholars who studied the Sringeri list to assign close to 800 years for Suresvara. Given that Sringeri is geographically located in a region that was ruled by Chalukyas, and given that there were more than a few significant kings called Vikramaditya among the Chalukyas, who also often ruled over the Tamil speaking Coimbatore region, please tell me, why not lean towards that dynasty to make historical sense of the record? Especially note that the original statement is not about 14 vikrama samvat, but 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. I am sure you will be aware of the nuance here that can make a big difference to historical conclusions.


> One paper mentions about Alberuni's record on Bhaskaracharya, showing that Bhaskaracharya was referring to another Vikrama Samvat, which was in existence before the Vikrama Samvat of 57 BCE. One will naturally like to know why the Sringeri paath ignored this earlier Vikrama samvat. 


This other vikrama samvat is an academic footnote, not one that is popularly followed in the country. Why should anyone who is merely giving dates as generally accepted pull out some arcane detail and peg their records on it?


> 3)
> Did the Sringeri authorities try to ascertain for themselves if the Sudhanva inscription is not reliable? If not done so far it may be better if they do so sooner than later.


No, the questions to be asked are the opposite - Who has seen this inscription? Where is it today? Without physical access to it, how can anyone gauge its reliability? The name sudhanvA as a king is found in the digivijaya texts, but Sringeri sources have never claimed to have any copper-plate inscription from him in their possession. The onus lies only on those who claim to have it, to produce it and get my earlier questions answered. Thousands of history and language scholars around the world would be interested in studying the original inscription, if it does exist. 

> 4)
> The Conference papers are very exhaustive and some of the papers are in Hindi. I felt that any conference without the participation of the Sringeri math seems to be incomplete. It is only for this that I wished that there should a face to face confrontation to sort out the issue once for all.

That is because the issue of Sankara's date has indeed been sorted out once and for all, to the satisfaction of any right-minded scholar who is willing to look past the inter-maTha relationships and politics. It is being resurrected nowadays because of the emotive appeal of certain movements and the completely imaginary idea that a BCE date gives more authority to somebody than a more recent date.


Most of the time, conferences such as these are organized to push certain very specific agendas, in order to "prove by assertion" and to "prove by repetition". They are not meant to engage in or present any meaningful scholarly research. Over the last twenty years, I am aware of at least three or four such "conferences" where the Sringeri Matha has never even been informed, let alone being invited to participate. This is because the Sringeri record is widely known and its non-affiliation with contemporary political movements is also widely known, and those who organize these "conferences" think they can marginalize any institution that does not concur with their political agendas. But I can safely say that these kinds of conferences, the people involved with them and their supposed "conclusions" will come and go, as per the prevailing political winds, but the Sringeri Matha and its tradition will continue for centuries as it has done for many centuries before today. And of the people who come and go, guess who they will turn to, when they need philosophical and monastic leadership whenever the need arises? The Sringeri Matha, again as has happened numerous times in the last few centuries!


> 5)
> Lastly would you like to let us know as to why the Sringeri authorities were earlier sticking to the date of  BCE for Adi Sankaracharya and dropped that later on.

Please read Swami Tapasyananda's translation of the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya, where the translator quotes the letter sent by the Sringeri administration about this. Please note that Swami Tapasyananda belonged to the Ramakrishna Math. The Sringeri account has always been clear and this book is easily available to anyone who is interested in this topic. There is nothing anybody can add to that.


> 6)
> Hiuen Tsing and the Chinese travelleres did not mention Dignaga an Dharmakirti and that does not nece3ssarily make Dignaga and Dharmakirti posterior to to Hiuen Tsang at all and I hope you will agree to this.

Maybe, maybe not. A Buddhist pilgrim from China not mentioning Dharmakirti or Dignaga is like a historian of India not mentioning Nehru or Jinnah. However, the Chinese travelers do mention the names of others whom they met in their travels and also give numerous other details. These can be easily correlated with other details to draw an extensive network of relative chronology, with a few definite dates for some historical people.




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